Failure To Diagnose

July 14, 2010

Headaches are a common symptom of many conditions and almost everyone will experience headaches at some point in their lives. Normally the average headache is nothing to worry about, despite the discomfort you might be experiencing. However, if you get a severe/sudden headache unlike any you have had before, you should always seek medical advice. Sometimes, a headache can be a warning of something serious that needs to be investigated so don’t delay in seeking help.

As I have a long history of chronic sinus infection, I’m well-used to getting headaches. I don’t panic when a headache occurs as I’m familiar with the signs and symptoms of acute sinusitis and have the necessary prescription medications to relieve the pain. However, if I develop a severe headache that I’m not familiar with/it continues to worsen, I will always seek medical advice. If the headache is considered a cause for concern, my GP/specialist will refer me for an urgent CT/MRI scan in order to rule out any serious cause. As I hold private health insurance, I rarely have to wait longer than 24 hours to undergo a scan. If, however, I had no health insurance and was a patient in the public health service, the story could be very different…

THE HSE has apologised before the High Court to the family of a young woman over deficiencies and failures which led to her death from a massive brain haemorrhage. The apology was part of a settlement of court proceedings.

“Louise Butler (21), Cappa Lodge, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare, died at Limerick Regional Hospital on November 16th, 2006, from a large subarachnoid haemorrhage, the court heard. She had worked as a security guard at Shannon airport.

Her family claimed the HSE had failed to properly diagnose she was suffering from the condition when she presented at the hospital just weeks earlier suffering with a serious headache.

Had she been properly diagnosed and referred for treatment after being admitted on October 6th, she would probably have survived, they alleged.

As part of the settlement yesterday of the family’s action for mental distress, the HSE apologised for the anguish and distress caused to the Butlers due to Louise’s tragic death.

The HSE also acknowledged there were failures and deficiencies which led to Ms Butler’s death and accepted her family did everything it could in the circumstances.

The settlement also includes a payment of €40,000 to Ms Butler’s family and was approved yesterday by Mr Justice Michael Peart. The action was brought by her brother James, Cappa Lodge, Sixmilebridge on behalf of the family.

They claimed they suffered mental distress and injury arising from their older sister’s death due to the HSE’s alleged negligence and breach of duty of care. The HSE had denied the claims.

The family claimed Ms Butler’s attended the hospital between October 6th-12th. It was claimed she was ill with a very substantial headache, which she had described as like “a hammer blow” to the back of her head, and photophobia.

She was discharged on October 12th without a CT scan being carried out. She was due to have a CT scan subsequently as an outpatient.

Despite the best endeavours of Ms Butler’s mother and the family GP it was claimed the scan was not arranged until November 13th. It was claimed Ms Butler never got the results of that scan as she collapsed the following day. The scan revealed she suffered a massive bleed in the brain and she died two days later.

It was alleged the HSE had delayed a CT scan which would have alerted medical staff to the existence of her condition. The family claimed their experts would argue, in October 2006, Ms Butler was suffering from a “sentinel” or “herald” bleed, which was a precursor to a large bleed.”

Information Source: The Irish Times 13/07/10

The Silent Killer

March 4, 2009

Last Christmas morning, the Hughes family from Co Mayo suffered the most terrible of tragedies. Padraig Hughes (20) died in his sleep from inhaling toxic carbon monoxide fumes from a leaking gas boiler.  His twin sister, Emma, narrowly survived.

“IT would be hard for any parent to imagine a more hellish Christmas morning – going to wake your precious children and not being able to. Slowly realising they are in serious trouble. Being unable to make contact with the emergency services. And it dawning on you – too late – that a €60 alarm could have prevented the whole tragedy.”

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is highly dangerous. You can’t see it or smell it. In fact it is often called “the silent killer”. It is thought to be responsible for about 40 deaths in Ireland each year. CO leaks can happen in any home or enclosed space, at any time. It is one of the bitter ironies of our modern age that the practices and products we use to make our lives more comfortable, often pose a potential risk to our basic health and safety. We go to great lengths to insulate our homes in an effort to increase energy and heating efficiency but, while making our dwellings cosier, we are also making it difficult for fresh air to enter and for carbon monoxide to be vented properly. There is no law In Ireland for domestic dwellings in relation to carbon monoxide.

Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of cold or flu. They include headache, feeling sick, tiredness, and dizziness. Because of the similarity of the symptoms to other conditions, carbon monoxide poisoning is often missed.


Carbon Monoxide alarms can be used to provide a warning in the event of a dangerous build-up of CO but they are no substitute for regular inspection and maintenance of appliances, vents, flues and chimneys.

The Hughes family have launched a personal campaign for legislation surrounding carbon monoxide alarms. They want regulations put in place that will make fixed carbon monoxide alarms compulsory in buildings and believe people should be made as aware of them as they are of smoke alarms.

You can protect your home from the dangers of this deadly gas by taking preventive measures and by learning to recognise the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Click here to find out more.

Source:  Tribune News and Carbon Monoxide.

Still Counting…

December 31, 2008

The total number of road deaths for 2008 has now reached 276.  That’s one more since yesterday.

A man was killed in a single-vehicle crash in Co. Louth yesterday evening.  He was the driver of a car that went off the road at about 6.10pm.  Gardaí are appealing for witnesses.

The circumstances of this man’s death are not yet known but my heart goes out to his family and friends. And sadly, this latest death on the roads is unlikely to be the last before the year is out.


Don’t invite a tragedy of this nature onto your doorstep. If you plan on drinking tonight, please leave the car behind.

Safe driving and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

NEW YEAR’S DAY UPDATE:  Still counting… 😦

Three teenage boys aged 14, 16, and 17 have been killed in a car crash near Nenagh in Co Tipperary. Two other teenagers, a young man and woman, were seriously injured. The five teenagers were travelling in a car at around 7.30pm last night at Kilboy near Nenagh. Gardaí say the crash happened when the car left the road, mounted a ditch and hit a tree.

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey described the deaths as a terrible tragedy. Mr Dempsey appealed for all road users to continue the effort to reduce road deaths.

Be Drink Aware

December 30, 2008


A total of 275 people have died so far this year on Irish roads. Last year, 38 people lost their lives on our roads during the month of December, with 18 people killed or seriously injured over the Christmas period alone. The Road Safety Authority’s (RSA) campaign to improve safety on our roads, appears to be working as today’s figures represent a 20 per cent reduction (63 fewer road deaths) compared to this day last year. But the year is not over yet!

“It’s not just those seriously injured or killed on our roads whose lives are changed forever in a crash. Everyone crashes. The devastating consequences are like shock waves that affect family, relatives, friends, work colleagues and whole communities.”

This is the message contained in a new series of TV adverts as part of the RSA’s ‘Crashed Lives’ campaign.These new adverts featuring true-life stories of road tragedy, are being screened until the end of January but can also be viewed on

Gardaí have also appealed to all motorists to slow down, to keep to the speed limits and “observe personal responsibility” in their driving behaviour to protect their own lives, their passengers and all other road users.

Please, please be drink aware this New Year and don’t drink and drive. Remember, just one drink impairs driving. Don’t take that chance. Plan ahead. Leave the keys at home and get a taxi, minibus, public transport or take turns to designate a driver. After all, who wants to become just another statistic?

A Better Place

August 27, 2008

I knew the moment I walked into the dementia unit at the nursing home that something had changed. My mother was up and dressed and sitting in her wheelchair beside the window. I settled down beside her to chat and it was only then that I realised what was different… one of the long term residents was missing and her possessions were all neatly piled on top of her bed. Poor Hannah* had died during the night.

The other residents of the unit were all sitting staring into space as per normal and while they appeared oblivious to the fact that one of their own was no more, a sombre mood was palpable. Looking at them sitting in silence, I found it hard not to ponder over who’s turn it will be next… for that is the reality of this unit.

Alzheimer patients slowly fade away, it’s like a living death as bit by bit they withdraw from the world. The staff of this unit are very supportive of the families. We are like one big family who are on a difficult journey together and everyone supports one another. When a bereavement occurs, it affects everyone in the unit.

When Hannah’s family arrived to collect her belongings this afternoon, the sense of togetherness was powerful. We all hugged and shed a few tears and remembered the good times together. We’ve come to know each other well over the years and today’s farewell was a reminder that one day my turn will also come, to say goodbye.

My mother is one of the few residents in this unit that can still hold a conversation although she has great difficulty processing her thoughts. She loves to listen to the staff chatting as they work and will occasionally chip in with her penny’s worth.

Today, when I was discussing Hannah’s demise with the staff, my mother suddenly joined in and asked “well, is she better yet“?

I looked at her and smiled. “Hannah’s in a better place now, Mum, don’t you worry” and she smiled back at me happily.

Rest in Peace, Hannah.

* denotes a name change.

Design and Dignity

June 20, 2008

I attended a public lecture in Dublin last night as part of the Hospice friendly Hospitals (HfH) programme. The subject matter was ‘Design and Dignity’ the case for renewing our hospitals. The Irish Hospice Foundation has launched a unique national programme to mainstream hospice principles in all areas of hospital practice relating to care for the dying and bereaved. The lecture while enlightening, succeeded in emphasising the major deficiencies that exist in Irish hospitals but it was good to hear that attitudes are changing.

Professor Roger Ulrich, Director of Centre for Health Systems and Design in Texas, delivered a long lecture outlining the evidence based design principles that should be incorporated into all future hospital developments. Steps such as improving visibility of patients, providing single bed rooms, reducing noise levels, and introducing nature and art to the hospital environment, have all been shown to reduce stress for the patient. This is all very laudable stuff but it seemed a million miles away from the reality of the Irish Health Service where patients consider themselves lucky to even get a hospital bed and where cross-infection is a major problem due to overcrowding. Janette Byrne, spokesperson for ‘Patients Together‘ took to the floor and told the audience that what Prof Ulrich was talking about was “just a dream for Irish patients.” Janette, who is herself recovering from cancer, stated “I live more in fear of the Health Service than I do of my cancer” and for me, that really said it all last night.

We have a long way to go to make our hospitals more user friendly in this country. Irish hospitals are a very long way off meeting the needs of patients, families and staff in relation to dying, death and bereavement. The HfH programme aims to change the culture of care in our hospitals so that people can die with dignity. This programme is not about blaming and shaming, it is a challenge to us all to ensure that a better service will be provided. The chairman of the night, Gabriel Byrne, challenged us all to “imagine” a future where our hospitals would provide dignity in dying, and to “have hope.”

Blog Post of the Month

May 12, 2008

The Irish Blog Awards under the able leadership of Damien Mulley, have come up with another great idea.

“As a way of keeping interest going in the Blog Awards, there will be a “Blog Post of the Month” awarded to an Irish Blogger/Group of Bloggers who has/have written what the judges deem the best post that month.”

And here is my nomination for this award:

I have no hesitation whatsoever in nominating Grannymar for her post The light went out.

This post quite simply blew me away. In fact, judging by the comments, everyone who’s read it was blown away. It touched the hearts of all, young and old and indeed many of us were reduced to tears.

Grannymar wrote this post on the tenth anniversary of the death of her husband, Jack. It is a beautiful tribute written with great courage, wisdom, honesty, grace and enormous love.

By writing about her loss, Grannymar has overcome the taboo surrounding death and dying and I’ve no doubt that her words will help to ease the journey of others through bereavement. She also deals brilliantly with the thorny subject of the insensitivity shown by some people on meeting a bereaved person. She reminds us to be careful of what we say as ill-chosen words can be very hurtful when emotions are raw. But most of all, Grannymar illustrates beautifully how the human spirit can overcome adversity and begin to find joy in life once more. She is truly inspirational and her daughter, Elly can rightly be very proud of her.

I highly recommend you pop over to Grannymar’s to share in this uplifting post but don’t forget to bring some tissues. It’s moving stuff!

This post truly deserves to win a Blog Post of the Month Award.